Cap & Trade = Higher Costs for Rural America

May 19, 2009
Frankly Speaking

This week, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are expected to consider The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) introduced the bill.  A major component of this legislation is cap and trade. 

As a lifelong rancher, as a student of Agriculture economics, and as the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I have very serious concerns about cap and trade and its impact on rural economies.   

Cap and trade is nothing more than a national energy tax, and the effects will be far-reaching to businesses, consumers, and even more so to rural America.  We are looking at the most amazing tax increase of all times.   If you like being cool in the summer, you’re going to be affected.  If you like being warm in the winter, you’re going to be affected.  If you want to go anywhere, you’re going to be affected.  This is going to affect all of us.  Chairman Waxman understands that the best way to force you to change your business habits, to change your lifestyle, is to tax you to the point where you have to change your lifestyle.

Those who will be hit the hardest will be people living in rural areas.  Unlike Chairman Waxman’s Hollywood constituents, rural Americans have different lifestyles and challenges.  They must travel farther for routine errands—25 percent more miles than urban households according to the most recent Federal Highway data.  And, rural households spend more on fuel than urban residents as a percentage of their income.  Power providers in rural America face a unique challenge of providing affordable electricity to larger, less densely populated areas.  Rural Electric Cooperatives serve 40 million Americans averaging around seven consumers per mile, while other utilities average 35 customers per mile. 

Protecting the environment is a worthwhile effort and I am all for it.  I helped craft the greenest Farm Bill ever in 2002.  It increased funding to incentivize voluntary conservation programs by 80 percent.  In 2008, I worked to improve and expand those conservation programs.  And, I helped draft a new energy title to encourage agriculture to produce second generation bio-fuels. 

But, I cannot support legislation that does nothing but levy taxes on rural America.  If we want a real solution to climate change then we should continue to focus on incentives, innovation, and research and not on taxes and mandates. 

Frank Lucas represents Oklahoma’s Third Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.  For more Frankly Speakings, please visit Rep. Lucas’ Blog at /resources/frankly-speaking.

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